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Atticus Finch- Going Against the Grain

By ALoneBlackRose Mar 24, 2009 804 Words
Road Less Traveled

Throughout history, there have been people who oppose the will of society, often actively working against it. Every society had there Joan of Arc or their Martin Luther King Jr., and this trend carried over to popular culture, finding its way into movies, books, television and radio. Harper Lee’s famous novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, is no exception. She weaves a near-timeless tale of the path from childhood to adulthood. In her unforgettable novel, the character of Atticus Finch assumes this role, as he takes on the court case of Tom Robinson, a black man convicted of rape, in his opinions on the mysterious Arthur “Boo” Radley, and even in his personal positions on many aspects of his life. The main body of the second part of the book is the Tom Robinson case; a black man being convicted of beating and raping a white woman. Because Mr. Robinson can not afford legal council, the presiding judge appoints Atticus as his defense attorney. To the shock of most of the town, and the horror of some, Atticus accepts the case. Because of his accepting the case, much of the community seizes the opportunity to ridicule him, saying that he’s “in the courthouse lawing for niggers” (Lee117). Despite Atticus’ moral code, this is an odd move, for any southern attorney at this time, let alone him. At that point in history, if a white person even thought about persecuting a black person, the accused were nearly guaranteed a trip to either the gallows or the electric chair. The main reason for this is the deep racism that ran through the south at this time; as it were, most of Maycomb wanted Tom Robinson dead, despite the fact that few thought him guilty. The fact that Atticus takes the case clearly shows his opposition to the common idealism. One of the greatest mysteries of To Kill A Mockingbird is the shadowy figure and past of one Arthur “Boo” Radley. Being that he hasn’t left his house in years, he is the source of many urban legends as well as a few interesting games for Scout and Jem, Atticus’ children. The aging lawyer doesn’t approve of these games, feeling that his children should “climb in someone’s skin and walk around in it” (Lee 33) before making any sort of judgment about them. Unfortunately, this is hard to when the entire town circulates nasty rumors about the Radleys, directly opposing Atticus’ teaching. At the very end o the book, Arthur actually comes out of his house and saves the lives of Atticus’ children, giving the reader some insight into his character, as well as Atticus’; while just about anyone else in the town has shunned Arthur Radley, Atticus has defended him, never contradicting himself in a two-faced manner as many of the other towns people would have undoubtedly done after learning what Arthur did. Atticus treats him with genuine respect and gratitude, thanking him sincerely. In addition to his ideals differing from those of the crowd, Atticus himself seems to contradict the society that he lives in. Atticus Finch is a quiet, peaceful, aging man, usually soft spoken, “who [hates] guns” (Lee 116) and is raising two children with the help of, first, a black cook, then his sister as well. Nearly everything in the previous statement goes against the small community of Maycomb, Alabama. Most of the people are taught to marry young, have children young, and remarry to have more children if their first spouse dies, in the case of a man. The fact that Atticus’ children are being raised by A) an unrelated party, and B) a black party, is nearly disgraceful. Also, the way in which he is raising them; eloquent, literate at a very young age and the fact that he allows his daughter to run about in boys cloths with a very unladylike nickname, is odd, in and of itself. Other “normal” male occupants of Maycomb go hunting weekly and spend evenings in bars, talking to other men and drinking. In the words of his daughter, “Atticus doesn’t drink whisky” (Lee 50) and “[hates] guns” (Lee 116), clearly showing his division from a society in which both are cultural staples. The character that is Atticus Finch is certainly not a stereotypical southern man, or even southern gentleman. In his defense of a black man in court, an unusual, possibly xenophobic man, and his own lifestyle, he seems to contradict nearly every social aspect of the community in which he lives. The part he fills in the story is invaluable, and the effect that he has on readers is undeniable. In his quiet passion for what is morally right, Atticus openly defies a society that one can not honestly call his.

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